How far we should go to explain the atonement to an unbeliever? This thought occurred to me as I was reading through 1 Corinthians; which is the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the people in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I’ve found that in discussing with skeptics about the cross in topics like “Why Would God Send People To Hell” or any other topic like that in which mentioning the atonement is relevant, many people just don’t seem to get it. Jesus dying for the sins of mankind so that we can avoid judgment seems like nonsense to them. And 1 Corinthians 1:18 affirms that we should expect it to be as such. So what I was wondering is: how far should we go to help the skeptic make sense of the doctrine of the atonement? If he’s perishing and since The Bible says those are perishing won’t understand the atonement unlike those who are saved, why bother?
Well, the more I thought about it, I’ve come to conclude that we should try very hard to help the skeptic understand the importance, the relevance and the why Jesus had to die. You see, for atheists, it’s just the atonement that they find foolish. They find theism in general to be foolish. The mere fact that we Christians believe in the supernatural is foolish for them. Should we therefore stop giving arguments for the existence of God or stop arguing over the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection? Of course not. The Bible commands us to “Always be ready to give a defense for the reason for the hope that is in us…” – 1 Peter 3:15 and to “…tear down arguments and anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4, to “defend the faith” – Jude 1:3
Whether or not the skeptic will be convinced by our arguments is a different story. Nonetheless, we should try to help the skeptic the best that we can to understand that our worldview makes sense. We should try to help him or her to see that the Christian faith is true. We should never have the sort of cop-out attitude that I was starting to have when reading 1 Corinthians. I certainly don’t think the Apostle Paul wanted to have the sort of mindset “Oh well, The Bible said that you’d find this doctrine foolish. So I guess there’s no point. Maybe when you’re saved, you’ll understand.”
We should no more back away from trying to help the unbeliever from understanding the atonement than from helping come to believe that God exists or that Jesus rose from the dead, or that The Bible is historically accurate.